Budapest, September 19 (MTI) – A municipal court on Monday turned down an appeal submitted by the owner of Munkácsy’s Golgotha against listing the painting as artwork under national protection.
The court said that the picture was an “irreplaceable” part of Hungary’s cultural heritage, and left in place an earlier decision by the national heritage authority, under which the monumental painting cannot be removed from the country without a special permit and which ensures pre-emptive purchase rights to the Hungarian state.
The decision can be appealed before the supreme court.
Hungarian-American Imre Pakh, the owner, ordered the painting to be veiled from public view at a museum in estern Hungary last year, after failing to reach an agreement on its sale to the state of Hungary.
The painting belongs to Munkácsy’s famous “Christ Trilogy”, all three of which hang in Debrecen’s Deri Museum. The state has owned “Ecce Homo!” for years and it recently acquired “Christ Before Pilate”, another of the three, from Canada’s Art Gallery of Hamilton for 5.7 million US dollars, with funding from the National Bank of Hungary’s programme to buy national art treasures.
The central bank earlier indicated it was willing to pay 6 million dollars to acquire “Golgotha”, but Pakh asked for 9 million dollars. Pakh’s offer included the loan of all 52 Munkácsy paintings in his collection for a period of twelve years as well as pre-emption rights for the works.